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Modern Families

Twin brothers are turning heads while fulfilling their dreams as SeaWorld trainers

Working with the animals has taught them a lot about connection.

jakob fenton, westin fenton, seaworld san antonio
via SeaWorld (used with permission)

Jakob and Westin Fenton at SeaWorld San Antonio.

Visitors to SeaWorld Sea Antonio, Texas have been doing double takes for the past 5 years after running into identical twin brothers Westin and Jakob Fenton. Guests often catch Westin educating children about exotic birds as a member of the Animal Ambassadors team near the park’s entrance. Then, a few minutes later, spot Jakob in a wet suit at the Orca Encounter.

“Every day it's like, 'Didn't I just see you?’” Westin told Upworthy. “It surprises them,” Jakob added. When Westin had braces, countless visitors frantically approached Jakob with a confused look, asking, “When did you get your braces off?”

The 23-year-old twins have been turning heads at SeaWorld since they were young boys and began attending the park’s summer camps at 7.


"They were the cutest. You could tell how obsessed they were with the animals. It made me so happy years later when they got hired here and to see how well they both do,” Kari Tomarelli, a trainer at Orca Encounter, shared with Upworthy.

jakob fenton, westin fenton, seaworld san antonio

Jakob and Westin Fenton at SeaWorld San Antonio.

via SeaWorld (used with permission)

From a very young age, the Fenton twins knew SeaWorld was more than just a place they visited—it was their destiny. "It was during my time away from SeaWorld that I realized, 'This is where I'm meant to be,'" Westin shared. "We've always been the twins who do everything together. Same friends, same passions, extracurriculars... everything,” Jakob added.

So, pursuing the same career wasn’t a big stretch for the twins.

The twins are incredibly close, but they also allow plenty of space for their animal companions at SeaWorld. Jakob spends a lot of his time, energy and heart caring for two of the park's five orcas: Kamea, a 10-year-old 3,000-pound female, and Tuar, the park’s dominant male, who is 24 years old and weighs over 8,000 pounds.

The pair couldn’t be more different.

"Tuar is very goofy; he has a great attitude," Jakob said, noting that even after a challenging training session, “he's just happy to be there.” Conversely, things haven’t been so easy with Kamea. “It took time to earn her trust, and it took months to develop a relationship,” Jakob admitted. “Now, I actually adore her."

jakob fenton, westin fenton, seaworld san antonio

Jakob Fenton at the Orca Encounter.

via SeaWorld (used with permission)

Even though park visitors see Jakob in a wetsuit, giving hand signals at the Orca Encounter presentation, most of his job takes place backstage, holding a scrubber. “Eighty percent of being a trainer is cleaning,” he told Upworthy. “We need to make sure that these animals are in a clean environment so our morning is 3 or 4 hours of maintaining habitats. Scrubbing ledges, cleaning glass, cleaning fish buckets."

While Jakob's role as an orca trainer may seem glamorous, he sees it as a platform to serve the animals and educate guests. His responsibility is more significant given the scrutiny marine parks have been under in recent years and the fact that this is the last generation of orcas under SeaWorld's care.

“Being able to introduce people who've never seen a killer whale and then have them walk away with an appreciation of the species and a desire to protect them in the wild means everything,” Jakob said.

While Jakob is loading up buckets of salmon for the Orca Encounter, on the other side of the park, you’ll run into Westin, presenting one of SeaWorld San Antonio's 17 exotic animals—most of which were rescued and rehabilitated—to gawking park guests. As an Animal Ambassador, Westin educates guests about exotic reptiles, birds, and small mammals. He also travels with his animal companions to nearby schools, retirement homes and hospitals to introduce them to the public.

jakob fenton, westin fenton, seaworld san antonio

Westin Fenton and Azul at SeaWorld San Antonio.

via Tod Perry (used with permission)

When he’s not taking questions from park guests about his animal companions, such as Star the bald eagle or Azul the hyacinth macaw, he’s flashing his pearly (and recently straightened) whites for photos with guests. He estimates he poses for about 50 a day.

While many would assume training means exerting authority over the animals to force them to do desired behaviors, Westin says it’s all about building relationships. "We're simply asking, 'Hey, would you like to come and participate?’ And Star has every opportunity to say no or to say yes,” he told Upworthy. “Everything is an ask. I'm not expecting Star to do anything. Whatever Star would like, we do."

Even though people have difficulty telling the twins apart, the animals can tell the difference. "They learn our behavior just like we learn theirs,” he told Upworthy.

The twins spend much of their lives together at SeaWorld and as Pilates instructors on the side, so what sets them apart? "Westin is a little more tamed. More reserved and to himself. Whereas Jakob is the life of the party,” Cesi Buitrago, a trainer at Orca Encounter, said. They also have one big difference in diet: Westin can’t stand cheese on his burger, but Jakob loves it.

jakob fenton, westin fenton, seaworld san antonio

The Fenton twins with a beluga whale.

via SeaWorld (used with permission)

For the Fenton twins, life at SeaWorld has taught them a lot about the animal kingdom, but it has also changed how they see humans.

“I had no idea the impact these whales would have on my life and how they would teach me how to be a better human and mentor,” Jakob told Upworthy. “Building my relationships with them, I can use what I've learned when thinking about developing a relationship with a human. They teach me to be patient, to listen, to invest, to really get to know someone. Don’t fake it. I never would have imagined all of these life skills I would have learned from killer whales."

It’s no surprise that Westin has come away with a similar lesson.

"So much of what we do is relationships. [The animals] have taught me what it takes to get to know someone; they’ve taught me patience, just really connecting on a deeper level,” Westin says. “I've learned a lot about life and, ultimately, connection."

Pop Culture

Here’s a paycheck for a McDonald’s worker. And here's my jaw dropping to the floor.

So we've all heard the numbers, but what does that mean in reality? Here's one year's wages — yes, *full-time* wages. Woo.

Making a little over 10,000 for a yearly salary.


I've written tons of things about minimum wage, backed up by fact-checkers and economists and scholarly studies. All of them point to raising the minimum wage as a solution to lifting people out of poverty and getting folks off of public assistance. It's slowly happening, and there's much more to be done.

But when it comes right down to it, where the rubber meets the road is what it means for everyday workers who have to live with those wages. I honestly don't know how they do it.


Ask yourself: Could I live on this small of a full-time paycheck? I know what my answer is.

(And note that the minimum wage in many parts of the county is STILL $7.25, so it would be even less than this).

paychecks, McDonalds, corporate power, broken system

One year of work at McDonalds grossed this worker $13,811.18.

assets.rebelmouse.io

This story was written by Brandon Weber and was originally appeared on 02.26.15

A kind nurse offers a flower.

As the old saying goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” Sadly, this hard truth becomes increasingly evident as we reach our final days. The things we take for granted today, such as our health, relationships, and time itself, become much more precious when we know they are about to end.

How much happier would we be every day if we lived with the perspective of those who are experiencing their final days?

Julie McFadden, known to her hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, as Hospice Nurse Julie, helps people appreciate their lives by regularly sharing her experiences with those who are living their final days.

Recently, she stopped by Rob Moore’s “The Disruptors” podcast, where she shared some of the big lessons she’s learned from the dying. Moore is a public speaker, entrepreneur and bestselling author of “Life Leverage.”


Given his background as an entrepreneur, Moore assumed that when people reach their final days, they regret the amount of time they spend working. "People definitely say that. 'I wish I didn't work my life away. I wish I didn't wait until retirement to do the things I wanted to do,'" McFadden said. However, there is another big regret that many share. “The main thing people say, that I don't hear a lot of people mention, is ‘I wish I would have appreciated my health,’” she added.

“I think the biggest thing I hear from people [who are] dying is that they wish they would have appreciated how well they how well they felt before,” she continued.

It seems that when people’s health begins to decline, they miss the vitality they never fully appreciated.

"I think most people take for granted things that have always been,” she told Moore. “You know, it's really easy to forget. We're so lucky to be alive in this moment. We're taking a breath right now. We're here on a rock that's like soaring through space. I mean, that alone can blow your mind."

McFadden believes that her profession reminds her to be grateful because dying is just as natural as living.

“I think because of my job, it's easier for me to see how once-in-a-lifetime this is. The fact that everything works together in our bodies to make us live and grow and I see that in-depth, too. I see how our bodies are biologically built to die,” she said. “That, right there, is so fascinating. We literally have built-in mechanisms to help us die. Our body can naturally do it. That's wild."

To get the most out of the miracle of life, McFadden writes a gratitude list every night so she’s sure to appreciate everything she has. Because, in the blink of an eye, it can be gone. “I like the fact that I can breathe, I'm walking around, I can feel the sunshine – little things like that,” she shared.

Our lives are filled with incredible gifts, whether it’s the people we love, the amazing things our bodies can do, or the places we get to see. But without gratitude, these beautiful gifts can easily go unnoticed and unappreciated. Practicing gratitude allows us to cherish these moments, so we’re fulfilled by what we have, instead of disillusioned by what we don’t.

Democracy

This Map Reveals The True Value Of $100 In Each State

Your purchasing power can swing by 30% from state to state.

Image by Tax Foundation.

Map represents the value of 100 dollars.


As the cost of living in large cities continues to rise, more and more people are realizing that the value of a dollar in the United States is a very relative concept. For decades, cost of living indices have sought to address and benchmark the inconsistencies in what money will buy, but they are often so specific as to prevent a holistic picture or the ability to "browse" the data based on geographic location.

The Tax Foundation addressed many of these shortcomings using the most recent (2015) Bureau of Economic Analysis data to provide a familiar map of the United States overlaid with the relative value of what $100 is "worth" in each state. Granted, going state-by-state still introduces a fair amount of "smoothing" into the process — $100 will go farther in Los Angeles than in Fresno, for instance — but it does provide insight into where the value lies.


The map may not subvert one's intuitive assumptions, but it nonetheless quantities and presents the cost of living by geography in a brilliantly simple way. For instance, if you're looking for a beach lifestyle but don't want to pay California prices, try Florida, which is about as close to "average" — in terms of purchasing power, anyway — as any state in the Union. If you happen to find yourself in a "Brewster's Millions"-type situation, head to Hawaii, D.C., or New York. You'll burn through your money in no time.

income, money, economics, national average

The Relative Value of $100 in a state.

Image by Tax Foundation.

If you're quite fond of your cash and would prefer to keep it, get to Mississippi, which boasts a 16.1% premium on your cash from the national average.

The Tax Foundation notes that if you're using this map for a practical purpose, bear in mind that incomes also tend to rise in similar fashion, so one could safely assume that wages in these states are roughly inverse to the purchasing power $100 represents.


This article originally appeared on 08.17.17

Pop Culture

What is 'Generation Jones'? The unique qualities of the not-quite-Gen-X-baby-boomers.

This "microgeneration" had a different upbringing than their fellow boomers.

Generation Jones includes Michelle Obama, George Clooney, Kamala Harris, Keanu Reeves and more.

We hear a lot about the major generation categories—boomers, Gen X, millennials, Gen Z and the up-and-coming Gen Alpha. But there are folks who don't quite fit into those boxes. These in-betweeners, sometimes called "cuspers," are members of microgenerations that straddle two of the biggies.

"Xennial" is the nickname for those who fall on the cusp of Gen X and millennial, but there's also a lesser-known microgeneration that straddles Gen X and baby boomers. The folks born from 1954 to 1965 are known as Generation Jones, and they've been thrust into the spotlight as people try to figure out what generation to consider 59-year-old Vice President Kamala Harris.

Like President Obama before her, Harris is a Gen Jonesernot exactly a classic baby boomer but not quite Gen X. Born in October 1964, Harris falls just a few months shy of official Gen X territory. But what exactly differentiates Gen Jones from the boomers and Gen Xers that flank it?


"Generation Jones" was coined by writer, television producer and social commentator Jonathan Pontell to describe the decade of Americans who grew up in the '60s and '70s. As Pontell wrote of Gen Jonesers in Politico:

"We fill the space between Woodstock and Lollapalooza, between the Paris student riots and the anti-globalisation protests, and between Dylan going electric and Nirvana going unplugged. Jonesers have a unique identity separate from Boomers and GenXers. An avalanche of attitudinal and behavioural data corroborates this distinction."

Pontell describes Jonesers as "practical idealists" who were "forged in the fires of social upheaval while too young to play a part." They are the younger siblings of the boomer civil rights and anti-war activists who grew up witnessing and being moved by the passion of those movements but being met with a fatigued culture by the time they themselves came of age. Sometimes, they're described as the cool older siblings of Gen X. Unlike their older boomer counterparts, most Jonesers were not raised by WWII veteran fathers and were too young to be drafted into Vietnam, leaving them in between on military experience.

Gen Jones gets its name from the competitive "keeping up with the Joneses" spirit that spawned during their populous birth years, but also from the term "jonesin'," meaning an intense craving, that they coined—a drug reference but also a reflection of the yearning to make a difference that their "unrequited idealism" left them with. According to Pontell, their competitiveness and identity as a "generation aching to act" may make Jonesers particularly effective leaders:

"What makes us Jonesers also makes us uniquely positioned to bring about a new era in international affairs. Our practical idealism was created by witnessing the often unrealistic idealism of the 1960s. And we weren’t engaged in that era’s ideological battles; we were children playing with toys while boomers argued over issues. Our non-ideological pragmatism allows us to resolve intra-boomer skirmishes and to bridge that volatile Boomer-GenXer divide. We can lead."

Time will tell whether the United States will end up with another Generation Jones leader, but with President Biden withdrawing his candidacy, it has now become a distinct possibility.

Of note in discussions over Kamala Harris's generational status is the fact that generations aren't just calculated by birth year but by a person's cultural reality. Some have made the argument that Harris is culturally more Gen X than boomer, though there doesn't seem to be any record of her claiming any particular generation as her own. However, a swath of Gen Z has staked their own claim on her as "brat"—a term singer Charli XCX thrust into the political arena with a post on X that read "kamala IS brat." That may be nonsensical to most older folks, but for Gen Z, it's a glowing endorsement from one of the top Gen Z musicians of the moment.

Representative photos by Canva and Evelyn Giggles|Flickr

Mom hilariously demands to know secret to clean kids' rooms.

Kids' bedrooms can be a source of contention in some households. Some kids are just naturally more tidy than others while some are more like little tornados leaving debris wherever they go refusing to clean it up. Parents can be on different wavelengths when it comes to how clean a child's room should be.

You've got the parents who are huge proponents of simply closing the door. If you can't see the mess, then the mess doesn't exist. You've got some parents that do a weekly or monthly clean themselves in an attempt to save their sanity. Then you've got the ones that have daily room cleans as part of their child's routine, but not everyone can or wants to be at that level.

Ariel B. recently posted a video asking parents to explain how they get their children to clean their rooms as she pans to her daughters' rooms that are in complete disarray.


The exhausted mom starts off by explaining that motherhood is ghetto. In fact she surmises that the "hood" people are talking about when they say the hood is ghetto is indeed motherhood before asking how other parents are doing it.

"My daughters' rooms are so nasty, everything you are ever looking for in your house is in them rooms," Ariel says.

This frustration started when her kids couldn't find their field trip shirts for summer camp, which prompted her to go in their rooms to investigate. She then shows everyone the room where the shirt was lost, exclaiming, "You couldn't find Jesus in this room. You couldn't find common sense, humility, any decent soul in this room."


The room was strewn with clothes, toys and other things. Commenters not only pointed out the mannequin head looking distressed under the bed but related hard to what the mom was saying and supported her rant.

"The mannequin head laying under table looking stressed. Her face looks like it’s saying 'help me,'" one person laughs.

"I'm closing the door. I have an almost 3 & 6 year old and I'm 37 weeks today…I close the door. It’s no way y'all messed the room up like this and expect me to clean it. So, when they get back from Florida, they can clean it themselves," another says.

"You're cracking me up! I can definitely relate to finding wrappers. I said 23 times don't eat in your room. I'm not cleaning it," another writes.

"That last part gets me crackin up every time I watch this. I watch this on the daily to remind myself it’s not just my kid," one mom admits.

But if you watch closely as Ariel pans the messy bedrooms you'll notice there's something important missing from the bed frames...a mattress. One person inquired about the important missing item and the response is not only comical but makes so much sense.

"I flipped the mattress looking for the orange shirt after I stepped on a Barbie jeep and almost broke my neck," Ariel explains before following up in another comment saying the mattress is in the hallway—it likely made it much easier to clean under the bed. And while the mom did receive some advice in the comments, it's unclear if she will heed any.